Snyder and the consent agreement

First appointees of Detroit Financial Advisory Board announced

Published On: Apr 19 2012 05:37:00 PM EDT

Gov. Rick Snyder loves to talk about consistent positive forward action. It will probably get tedious to the ear, but he is unrelenting in his adherence to the concept. He made it abundantly clear [without being snarky] he thinks little of the city of Detroit’s executive talent. He sees no one willing to balance the books properly, no one with an understanding of commonly accepted accounting practices, and no one willing to be accountable for getting the job of moving Detroit in the right financial direction. He moved quickly and quietly in his consent agreement toward putting a process in place to force all of those important objectives on the mayor and city council.

The process getting to the consent agreement was fraught with racist rants, angry Detroiters insistent someone was coming to steal “Detroit’s jewels” and one religious leader willing to burn down the city before allowing anyone to take it away from Detroiters. Snyder heard all of this, probably expected worse than he got [Treasurer Andy Dillon confessed to that after one review board meeting] and still stayed the course. How do we know?

Well, today he made two of his four picks for his Financial Advisory Board that will oversee the city of Detroit’s future budget planning efforts. Dillon made his one pick and it was in lock step with the governor’s desire to put some heavy hitting financial talent in the city/county building. They are Robert Bowman, current CEO of Major League Baseball’s Advanced Media Team, [the governor and Mayor Dave Bing’s joint pick], Darrel Burks [The governor’s first individual pick of three] and Ken Whipple [Dillon’s one individual choice]. This is first class executive and financial talent and the Governor appears unrelentingly positive this is the tonic the city needs.


Bowman was Michigan’s treasurer in the 1980s; he has been the president of the Michigan Educational Trust, the first of its kind college funding program in the nation since 2003. Major League Baseball is one of those stalwart, longtime, first class operations who hire only the best. Burks is a CPA and managing partner of PriceWaterhouseCoopers. His experience is in auditing and business management consulting. You don’t get to those heights without a heavyweight pedigree and serious sense of purpose. Ken Whipple is a fairly well known name around the city. He is currently the non-executive of the nation’s largest executive search firm but he made his bones as a Ford Motor Company executive. He is best known as a Ford vice president of Ford Motor Credit. You don’t get that high in the glass house [or stay for long] without knowing your business and executing business plans exceptionally well. He retired in 1999 and moved on to CMS energy [Consumer’s Power] where he was CEO and board chairman.

This is the governor setting the agenda, stacking the deck as it were. He is not kidding around and he doesn’t want the mayor or city council picking political hacks or members of the “friends and family” program for this critical board.

The governor has two more picks which we can expect to be of the same ilk. Mayor Bing will pick two more and council will choose two as well. The table and the tone are set. The consent agreement comes with the teeth of an alligator. The governor is not kidding around; I imagine council is getting the message. The rest of the board should take shape in the next week or two.